Monday, November 28th, 2016
Los Nahuales has been available to the U.S. market since the 1990s, and for years it was one of the only mezcals available in this country aside from Del Maguey. With hype for new mezcals on the market, this clean and classic mezcal made from espadin agave is often overlooked.
Jaime and Gustavo Muñoz started before the mezcal rush, in a time where mezcal was viewed by most as the workingman’s drink. They opened a restaurant first, and purchased a Oaxacan artisanal distillery after. To the average eye, the twins’ path to mezcal was backwards. Yet since purchasing the Los Danzantes (Los Nahuales in the United States) distillery in 1996, they’ve paved the road for mezcal to enter the global market in a sustainable manner.
The brothers and business partners have always been interested in the tradition and roots of their heritage, and have founded several restaurants with an intention to unite indigenous flavors and fine dining. Thus it became clear why pairing mezcal with their restaurants (most notably Los Danzantes) became a necessity – it was another way of integrating indigenous and ancient ways into their restaurant. “We’re not interested in being the biggest or the richest,” Jaime states, “We want to be the most influential.”
The Danzantes distillery in Oaxaca’s Santiago Matatlán has evolved by ownership observing the demands of the agave spirit. “We need to be conscious of what our effects are,” insists Hector Vasquez, long time company member and current exporter, “we are not owners of the land.” As a result, the company uses gas for distillation instead of wood, and sources all their agaves. They consider the demand for their product and produce only what is necessary. Their consideration for maintaining the artisanal methods of the past creates a platform for others to follow in the sustainability of agave spirits (a plant that can take up to 40 years to mature).
Since creating the Danzantes/Nahuales brand in 1996, they’ve introduced new brands to the market: Alipús (all from espadin agave and made by 5 different families), and Mezcalero. Join us at Comal for tastes of this classic mezcal!
Friday, October 14th, 2016
The U.S. agave boom hit right as Comal opened its doors in 2012. Since then, we’ve had the opportunity to bring in new exciting products from Mexico and highlight specific selections, but recently we have begun featuring some of our favorite producers. For the next four months, we’re highlighting a total of twelve expressions from four different tequila and mezcal producers: Carlos Camarena of Tapatio, Jaime and Gustavo Muñoz of Los Nahuales, Jacob Lustig of Don Amado, and Jose “Pepe” Hermosillo of Casa Noble. Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Jacob Lustig (a Berkeleyite himself!) in his Oakland home.
We live in an age where we want to rush through everything, but why not take some time to sit with one another? That’s Jacob. I am greeted with a huge hug and the traditional Latino kiss on the cheek as I step into his home. I would never guess he had many more meetings following mine, let alone that he’s leaving in a couple days for an extended trip to multiple cities. “Convivir,” he tells me – something people in Oaxaca take time to do but here in the States, we just rush around for all the answers. No time for one-on-ones.
Jacob grew up locally, even went to Berkeley High for part of his schooling. In his early teens however, he began spending part of his time in Mexico. College directed him more in depth to Oaxaca, and he finally began working directly with the Arellanes family while writing his dissertation in the early 90s. Although he doesn’t market his product as “environmentally-conscious,” this is something he is involved in, one of the reasons he uses significantly less wood for distillations for instance.
While Jacob is full of knowledge like this, so is the Arellanes family – it’s something that amazes me every time I visit the Don Amado palenque (mezcal distillery). The family doesn’t only take pride in their work but also takes time to understand the demand of mezcal on a global level, as well as the effect it has on the earth: the trees, agave itself, and how to make their operation sustainable. Their large nine clay-pot distillery traditionally includes distillations of espadin agave, an agave they harvest after approximately eight years. Unlike other distilleries I’ve visited, this is a full-family affair; even Jacobo is part of it!
And for Jake as well as the family, the eleven generations the family has been making the same product doesn’t mean they must stick with the same methods. Instead, they view the time and practice as historical permission to try something new. For the first time in their family’s tradition (that they know of), Don Amado mezcal introduces two copper stills, as well as distillates from agaves such as largo and arroqueño, as well as a their version of a pechuga (a third distillation of their espadin with fruits and spices to create their own vegetarian version of this celebratory mezcal).
I invite you into Comal for a taste of this wonderful and thoughtfully crafted artisanal product. Convivir!